The 'Dumbo' scene that never was: Exclusive art from Disney's archives

In his multibook series They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Late Golden Age, Disney historian Didier Ghez has performed his own Indiana Jones act, delving into the recesses of the Mouse House’s storied animation archives to unearth the rarest of cinematic treasures. With the third volume coming out next week, Ghez gave Yahoo Entertainment a sneak preview of his archaeology, stunning artwork created for Disney features and shorts in the 1940s, including such masterpieces as DumboFantasia, Bambi, and Alice in Wonderland.

“Half of the pieces in the book come from the Disney vault and half from the collection of the families of Disney artists. More than 90 percent of them had never been seen before in book form,” Ghez says. “Most of them had not been seen by anyone outside of the Disney Studio in more than 75 years. 

“Rescuing these pieces of art created by some of the most talented artists of the 20th century is immensely rewarding.”

Contained here are illustrations for “The Mouse’s Tale,” a scene from Dumbo that was ultimately cut from the film, as well as the image Ghez calls “the most exceptional document featured in the book.” Click through to see.

They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Late Golden Age: The 1940s — Part Two (Chronicle Books, $45) will be available on Oct. 10. 

The backstory of ‘The Mouse’s Tale’ scene

Ghez sets the scene: “The very first outline of Dumbo, written by artists Joe Grant and Dick Huemer and submitted to Walt Disney in 1939, featured a total of 23 sequences. At the end of Sequence 4 the young Dumbo meets the mouse Timothy and Timothy is surprised to find out that Dumbo is not afraid of him, which leads to Sequence 5, ‘The Mouse’s Tale.'”
(Credit: James Bodrero/Disney/Chronicle Books)

Miniature elephants frolicking

“Timothy explains to Dumbo why, as an elephant, he is supposed to be afraid of him. Timothy tells Dumbo the tale of a distant past when the elephants’ ancestors were as small as mice are today…(Credit: James Bodrero/Disney/Chronicle Books)

Mice attack!

“…and when mice were gigantic. Since elephants never forget, now that the situation is reversed they remain terrified of mice to this day.” (Credit: James Bodrero/Disney/Chronicle Books)

Excavation project

“I had heard about the projected sequence through an early version of the Dumbo script,” says Ghez, “and knew that one of the artists featured in They Drew as They Pleased, James Bodrero, had worked extensively in the project. What I never realized is that Bodrero had created not just dozens but hundreds of stunning drawings for that abandoned sequence.”
(Credit: James Bodrero/Disney/Chronicle Books)

Rodent rampage

“The artwork for the abandoned ‘Mouse’s Tale’ sequence from Dumbo was preserved at the Animation Research Library, the animation archives of the Walt Disney Studios, which protects more than 65 million pieces of artwork from past Disney features,” Ghez says. “Going through all of them in order to select the best ones for the book was an overwhelming and tremendously exciting experience.”
(Credit: James Bodrero/Disney/Chronicle Books)

Pachyderm panic

For his book, Ghez wound up selecting seven of the images, which show the elephants peacefully snacking away on jungle fruits before being ambushed by a pack of monstrous mice.
(Credit: James Bodrero/Disney/Chronicle Books)

The watering hole

Bodrero’s stunning pieces range from sketches and black-and-white studies to lively colorful renderings.
(Credit:James Bodrero/Disney/Chronicle Books)


Dumbo meets Timothy Q Mouse in the movie. This would have been the scene directly preceding ‘The Mouse’s Tale.’ But as seen in the final film, which differs from the original script, Dumbo is initially scared of the rodent and needs to be coaxed out from under a haystack by his new pint-sized pal. (Credit: Disney)

And then there’s Bela Lugosi making like a demon

“The most exceptional document featured in the book, however, is not a piece of artwork, but a specific photograph. For decades we had known that actor Bela Lugosi, of Dracula fame, had posed for the Disney artists when they were working on the ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ sequence of Fantasia. No one, however, had ever seen any photographs documenting this famous event,” says Ghez. “Until, in the course of my research, through the family of Disney story artist Joe Rinaldi, I discovered the only known photo of Bela Lugosi posing for Fantasia. Both the family of Bela Lugosi as well as Disney historians had been trying to locate such a photo for more than 50 years.”
(Credit: Disney/Chronicle Books)

‘Night on Bald Mountain’ from ‘Fantasia’

Lugosi served as the model for the demonic Chernabog; here is how the evil deity appears in Fantasia‘s classic ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ segment.
(Credit: Disney)